South Carolina Wheat: Freeze Damage Possible in the Pee Dee

Image from Justin Ballew, Clemson University

According to Weather Underground it got down to 28 this morning (3/15) and its forecast to reach 23 tommorow morning (3/16) and 27 Thursday night (3/17).  The cold last night was enough to ruin most of the peach crop in SC.

Wheat growers are nervous about what will become of their crop.  Below is a table from Kansas State showing the temperatures at which wheat can sustain freeze damage.


Click Image to Enlarge

We have a whole lot of wheat in the jointing stage right now, so if we reach 23 it could be bad news.  The little wheat head pictured below is on it’s way up the stem and is highly vulnerable to a hard freeze.  If damaged, it will be evident within a few days by a slightly greener or brown tint and loss of turgidity.


The photo below shows a wheat head from the 2016 season that was damaged by a frost in the boot stage.  If we get damage in the jointing stage, the damaged tillers may not even make it to boot.


Head damaged by frost in the boot stage.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do to protect our wheat fields.  We’re at the mercy of mother nature.

Here is a great publication from Kansas State showing photos of freeze damage at each stage of wheat development with detailed descriptions of what happens when the plants are damaged.  If you would like help assessing freeze damage over the next week or so, please contact your local Clemson Extension Agent.

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